The 2020 Playlist

~ In the first week of January 2020, I quit my job.

Long story short — I was a salaryman with a void in my heart. Three and a half years into a job I felt nothing but a creeping aversion for, I could look ahead to my near-term superiors, their positions, responsibilities, managerial-ness, their lives… and I knew absolutely that it was not for me. And never would be. I had to get out. My career, as I originally thought it would be, was done. And I was more than happy to kill it.

Though I was technically learning something new everyday {nothing interesting and/or *good* imo, lot of spreadsheets of grey financial data}, working in a dYnAmIc and semi-autonomous role {no two days were the same, I guess, but they were all kinda the same — I operated mostly as a middleman between our outsourced personnel in India crunching the data and my immediate, macro decision-making manager}, and the pay was solid {more than enough to make a living on in a big city, with plenty to save/invest} — I felt the utter void of my work every waking moment as I was doing it. Relatively meaningless to me, unconscionably repetitive, estranged from all sense of actually helping people in any material way, I was a faceless peon to the corporations — large, medium, and small — that I ultimately worked for, helping them to understand their own finances or that of their targets, other companies slated to be purchased at a sum to be justified with a reliable return on investment into an indefinite posterity that we’d try to predict together.

This was my life; this was my burgeoning vocation. A professional service firm consultant unto such myriad corpo “efficiencies”, working 50+ hours a week, plotting with teams and clients, listlessly mashing Excel hotkeys and pivots, perusing 20+ tabs of long-form financial data presented 40 different ways, drafting late night emails and instructions to our overseas resources on data imports and their meticulous, all-important initial formatting — day after day, client after client, without end, without any sense of resolution {we consulted on mergers and acquisitions but never saw them through to their furthest, final stages} or gratitude {the bi-weekly paycheck, yay} or… meaningfulness, as I said. Again, I had to get out.

I saw the writing on the wall. I understood this was not the place I was meant to be. This ‘career’ I had been training so arduously for through my college years, I now realized through my setting out onto the beginning of the real path itself, was nothing I wanted. So with no solid plan in place for my future beyond *not this*, I decided to leave. Undergirding the choice, rather risky with no other place or path I was directly jumping onto, were also a few inclinations I had gathered up in my first professional job experience thus far: that I did not want a “career” at all and all it conventionally entailed > that I did not really care about money or advancements, that I needed to be doing something that mattered (ha!), something that I cared about > that I had little interest in managing other people > that I was not actually good at this job, and my dispassion for it was making me worse > that I could never work for a company that does not *do good* {in my opinion…}, or at least something I would rather not spend the majority of my life and labor energy consciously upholding.

Maybe I could jump onto a more palatable enterprise doing relatively the same core job {accounting, financial analysis, transaction consulting}. Or maybe, I needed to be elsewhere entirely, in a completely different role, company, industry, reality… Either way, I needed to be away from this job I saw no future within, that was wearing me down more and more every day, that was making me begin to forget time, become as disinterested in my life outside of work as I was within it, not even care what the next day brought with it…

The deeper desire in quitting was simple {and childish}: I just wanted everything to stop. I wanted *time* itself to stop. moving. forward.

What I needed was time. Time to myself, to figure my life out. To write. To make my art. To get back into reading. Into shows and movies, anime and manga. Music and games. All things I was always doing in my free time anyway… But more. MORE! Time to slow down, time to indulge. To clear my mind, body and soul. And also, maybe just maybe, to see people, to potentially make more… idk friendships, relationships, companionships. Time to… see the world? {😆} Time to fill the various voids in my life…

Quitting my job would certainly give me the time to do such things, and more. For a short while, before starting the next leg, I would be able to plan my life out from scratch, while simultaneously trying new things, ‘living my best life’ … A flawless plan!

The plan {as of New Year’s Day 2020}: Jan 2020 {10% life planning / 90% indulgence} > Feb 2020 {50% life planning / 50% indulgence} > Mar 2020 {find and apply to jobs!} > Apr 2020 {Get new job! [Proceed from here…]}

Now obviously, I completely burned away January; February I did begin to search and research rather earnestly for potential next job moves; March I applied, and even received a return and a potential interview to be set up…

And then,

Everything changed when COVID attacked.

If 2020 had an Anime Opening

When self-quarantining began to be recommended, long after lockdowns were enforced, I had the ironic experience of my life not really changing that much with the onset of the novel virus pandemic hitting American shores. Jobless and fitted to my own unemployed, ill-fated schedule of strange waking hours, a smorgasbord of daily indoor indulgences already on my plate, nowhere to really go but further into myself — I was living like a hermit well before a global pandemic forced everyone to. I was in hog heaven! {for a while}. I was definitely writing more than ever before {continuing my past NanoWriMo projects titled “Mythos”, and “Thresholds of Transformation” + consistently writing for this blog}; I read four books in January {The Running Man, Storm Front — The Dresden Files, Exhalation: Stories, The Hellbound Heart, began The Count of Monte Cristo}; played through God of War; caught up on Castle Rock, season 2, watched the new Picard Star Trek show; completed some anime: Parasyte and Demon Slayer and Vinland Saga; I finally, triumphantly watched Twin Peaks: The Return. Hailing me down from the hellsite, signifying promises to satiate my worldly ‘news’ addictions in an election year with more stimulating stylings, I began to binge the Chapo Trap House politico comedy podcast, past and present, coinciding in the midst of Bernie Sanders’ suddenly-very-promising presidential primary run feeding me such hopes… Surrounded by such choice consumptions and semi-satisfying creative endeavors, I initially indulged myself in these ways from the shadows of quarantine.

From such shadows, continuing the search for fruitful, non-soul destroying job prospects {rather haphazardly and without serious progress}, I began to theorize a better way to spend this time. I did find myself struggling to stay disciplined {especially with writing}, wasting swaths of time, getting caught in mood swings or idle lethargies that would destroy hours at a time; I would experience decision fatigue, decision immobilization, decision regret at all the opportunity costs of actually deciding to do any one thing while forgoing others. I felt the occasional shame or despair or existential crises at the uncertainties of my life and career as of this strange moment in my life. Tides of loneliness and of wanting to escape this small little world I had crafted for myself came and went. After a while — certainly — I felt bad about how much free time I had. Comparing myself with my friends, with the average worker out there, my days were entirely my own, to expend them just how I desired to … for better or worse.

After January and February’s month-long periods of doing-whatever-the-fuck-I-wanted without consequence or responsibility, the thrilling novelty of my empty days, filled to the brim with only my own moment-to-moment volitions, began to fade away. I understood that I needed to get serious about “returning to reality,” i.e. getting a job. But with the pandemic countering, the prospects for that were slimming. It was becoming evident that I would not be returning to reality any time soon. My self-styled “vacation” of life-clarifying freedom now turning to state-imposed exile in a burning world… was about to become a lot longer. {Important to understand in all this — from the start, I had enough money saved to continue to pay my rent and buy myself food for a good long while. Knowing this, my lack of precarity did not force me into finding a makeshift or potentially dangerous essential worker-type role out of financial necessity… Which I am grateful for the privilege of. / Though there are days where I feel as though being a grocery store worker or a community volunteer or a *helper* of some kind, toward the basic ends of public health, would make a far superior impact on the world than anything within my own field of educated, financialized, blood-sucking “expertise” — and I would enjoy it more too… But I digress.}

Necessarily, I desired a more ordered methodology to marshal my energies, else I’d end up continuing to squander them. Once I fully understood the extent of my solitude, with absolutely no one else to rely on to entertain my days with humors or learnings — alongside my relative lack of ability to change my immediate life conditions concerning the continuity of my ‘career’ {returns on job applications drying up, zero’ing out, becoming nil} — I began to develop ideas about how to better organize all this free time. How best to use it, to invest it unto myself and my desires, cultivations, betterments? More likely, how might I end up wasting it if I don’t get real about ordering it? A suddenly dreadful free time spanned out before me, amidst a world in ongoing crisis that had for many intents and purposes stopped, just as I subconsciously desired for my own life circumstance…

Theorizations of the monkey’s paw spring to mind. That of a dark wish coming to realization via a tenebrous twist of fate, equally unanticipated and undesirable, enough to compel the wisher to erase their initial desire altogether and revert the world back to its original position. So, as the world {especially America} descended into chaos both necessary and unncessary, I had my time, my fortress of solitude — Now, how to spend it without feeling like a failure, and without losing my mind along the way??

Link: ~ The 2020 Playlist ~

I began to create a playlist. I endeavored to create a journey for myself to venture through, of art and media and creative & consumptive inputs and outputs. A list to work through, laid out in advance — to consistently check the boxes of, with no day-of heed to my unreliable moods or inclinations. Partially inspired by basically everything I had ever read about how to cultivate a writing habit for oneself — consistent, day-to-day word counts drafted, a steady slice through the “curse of getting started,” regardless of one’s mood, wants, desires, feelings toward the writing — the playlist was to be a collection of art experiences to give … to myself. Not unlike my Trello “Bingo Book,” the playlist was to become a well-structured and satisfying gameplan to focus my energies onto. Consciously constructed, and growing every day as new ideas and nodes were built {series, games, books, music}, the playlist was initially started with a list of films, in chrono order, that I had always wanted to sit down and watch. Spawned from my ever-expanding IMDb watchlist, and strangely enough, sparked with a pair of John Carpenter horror films first {Prince of Darkness, In The Mouth of Madness}, the playlist was built with the core idea in mind: to better cultivate my free time. In between my daily sleeps, eats, exercises, half-hearted job searches and discord or phone conversations … I had something to do. Something to look forward to. Something to enjoy — in both a lazy and a self-serious critical sense.

The first film I actually watched, with my brother in Austin, TX in mid March — right as Covid began to spread like wildfire through the U.S. — was Stalker (1979).

A magnificent film, patiently paced and full of deep, existential contemplations — Stalker inspired me. So much so that I felt compelled to write about it; those thoughts became a short essay ~ Stalking A Dream. It is among my favorite films now, and the essay is among my favorite things I have ever written.

Stalker, and the satisfying experience of watching a film like it, animated me with renewed purposefulness. For in this age of instant gratification and artificially-acculturated social media-inspired ADHD for all and ‘easy’ artistic consumptions — the experience of staying all other life enterprises constantly beckoning, to sit my ass down before this film, and take it in without interruption and without consideration of anything outside of its fantastical confines… was decidedly novel. “Based.” Sacred, even. Suffering from twitter addiction and my own brand of irony-poisoning and a default inability to pay attention to much of anything for an extended period of time, without considerable efforts to force myself to — this experience — of spending an hour or two watching a strangely-paced and subtly artful film, living inside of it for a spell, and doing nothing else — became practically religious to me. Just what the doctor ordered. Aside from the bare fact of enjoying a good flick, that I think anyone can understand — the time felt meaningful. And that is because I endeavored to make it meaningful. From such a righteous inception, this became the mode in how I engaged with all these films, books, series, games, music, etc. upon my playlist.

From there, the playlist grew; the journey had begun.

On Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure (1997) — by pypaik
~ https://pypaik.wordpress.com/2009/05/25/12/

Naturally, every film watched on the playlist became a source of critical expression from me. Truly, every other experience did, too. Some short-lived and simplistic in my consideration of them, others not so. On my doc, I would write a short review of my thoughts on each film, some longer and more detailed than others, each scored on a scale of 1–10 {more so, 6 to 10, with a lot of 8’s as “good” / 7 = “solid” / 9 = “excellent” / 10 = “masterpiece”}. And as one sees in the film selections on my scroll, I am no elitist aesthete, deigning only to watch ‘high art’ and avoid the “easy,” the “dumb,” or the rote “genre trash.” I welcomed all kinds of film experiences, as was evident from my well-gathered but mostly un-executed cinema watchlist up to then.

So… I made a list of 100 movies and I watched them all? So what? I made a bullet list on a google doc of things I CONSOOOME during quarantine, jobless and bored, but incrementally effective at turning my tedium into a continuous, self-critical diversion, a solitary, digital empire of words, thoughts, opinions, artistic delights… So what?? What is the point of all this? Why am I writing about this? Why do I plan to make another such playlist for 2021? {while hopefully, eventually resolving that whole unemployed, currently prospectless, drifting wanderer-through-the-fog-of-life thing as well. Sorry, I have no happy resolution there as of yet…}

My March 2020 mood board

Well, the answer is simple: because I found the experience quite valuable.

The playlist made me both diligent and appreciative of how I was spending my time; it made me consider more seriously what kind of art I was taking in {and how} and letting fill up my mindspace, inevitably influencing my own nascent creations on my pages. The playlist allowed me the time and space to make more critical, more dialectical, judgments upon the screens, pages, and interactive experiences before my eyes. In real-time, and then also in retrospect, those experiences were amplified by the very nature of WHY {to make my time meaningful} and HOW {consciously, deliberately, critically} I chose to be engaging them in the first place. {if any of this makes sense..}

What did I learn from this? What did the creator do well? What did I enjoy in this particular piece? How did they structure the story, build the characters, deliver *that* one shot or moment? Why am I watching/reading/playing this? What can I take away from this poetry and use in my own life, in a conversation, in a story of my own?

And so on. More than anything else, the playlist cultivated more discernment in my interaction with all things in my life, more patience in my worldly observations, more mindfulness, more conscientiousness.

All this has been a running theme in my life and how I structure my time with art over the last couple years, for sure. But this playlist’s construction and execution, amidst my current life conditions, was a kind of culmination upon this thesis. I have infinite things I could experience; infinite things I could potentially write about. Thus, it is important to choose wisely, conscientiously, if I can.

This is what the playlist was about.

And not to be discounted, as I mentioned before, is the mere fact of this habitual, sometimes painstaking, always satisfying documentation being… something to do. Something I clearly enjoy doing, else I wouldn’t be doing it. Something I can derive some kind of meaning out of. Something which allows me, in the continuous organizing of my existence through such mediums, to affirm my own existence, even if only in a digital space. In such ‘work’, I am helping to process my time here, in this life, coping through solitude, marking my time, sometimes making it sing with artful expressions upon the nature of such. diverse. strange. myriad. experiences.

“An old philosopher has said that if you accurately record all that you experience, before you know it you are a philosopher.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

This is also what the playlist was about. Call me an aspiring philosopher.

And this, below, is also what the playlist was all about:

~ A list of some of the highlights, some of the things I learned ~

  • Watching movies at home, without your phone in hand, is game-changing and I obviously recommend; however, another way of scoping out the phone / social media addiction, discouraging recursion to use during any slowness in a TV show or movie — Let the experience — or rather, MAKE IT — capture your attention naturally. That is, as soon as you see something in the film or episode that fully grasps your attention and turns you away from all distractions, let it keep it! It’s earned it. Don’t go back to the phone after… {I would argue EVERY film has at least one moment like this!}
https://youtu.be/gM8dUPHv2HY
David Lynch on Movies on the iPhone
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
  • Every movie has something for everyone. Even in movies you don’t like, you can find something — a scene, a character, a single shot — that you do. Always look for those moments.
Venom (2018)
  • Ironically, I started this 2020 film odyssey with Stalker (1979), a film about a wasted, tragic landscape where people can still nevertheless dream — that was filmed on location in the midst of actual toxic waste — that ended up eventually killing the legendary director Tarkovsky and one of the principal actors! ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalker_(1979_film)#Production / On a number of levels, a timeless tale, one for our time. R.I.P.
  • Alan J. Pakula’s informal “Paranoia Trilogy” made through the 1970s — Klute (1971), The Parallax View (1974), and All The President’s Men (1976) — is a trio of excellent-to-masterful films, sharply crafted, postmodernistic, reflective of the era in which they were made. Relatively unconnected in their narrative content — one about a P.I. and a sex worker, another about a small-time reporter getting caught in an international conspiracy, and the third based on true events relating to the Watergate scandal and Woodward and Bernstein’s journalistic work to uncover the truth behind Presidential-class corruption — the films carry the same core themes: politics, power, paranoia.
  • Reds (1981), an epic tale of love and revolution, tells an untold, true one, presenting the world of 1917 at the precipice of its historic moment — a world at the precipice of change, a world that could’ve gone a different way…
Reds (1981)
  • Possession (1981) portrays one of the most striking depictions of human madness I have ever seen; does things and goes places I have never seen any movie do. Performance driven and full of striking moments, and images.
Possession (1981)
  • Amadeus (1984) — the cinematic tale of Mozart’s rise and fall — easily one of the best films I watched on the playlist’s run; manages to make 18th-century musical drama momentously action-packed. Well-acted and supremely scripted.
Amadeus (1984)
  • Watch as many movies from across the pantheon as I have this year and you begin to detect themes — Older 20th-century films’ style {more patient, tedious pacing, more subtext and chewing of scenery and performance-driven structures, more screenplay driven} vs. modern 21st-century films {faster paced, more neatly structured, focus consistently upon the action, generally less subtext, less ‘mistakes’, more effects driven} ~ equally powerful experiences in the end imo, just different — driven by culture, technology, and time. And of course, these are generalizations — all kinds of films exist in all kinds of eras, especially nowadays, with the whole history backing contemporary creations.
Hard Boiled (1992)
  • Berserk, the dark fantasy manga by writer/artist Kentaro Miura (run from 1989-present), unwinds an incredible tale of life, love, fate, betrayal, vengeance, physical and psychological violence, good and evil, humans and demons. Rivals Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad in its narrative weights and character turns. Recommend to anyone appreciative of the art of anime or manga. ~ X / X
Berserk’s 1995 anime
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Jurassic Park (1993)
  • The pair of anime films directed by visionary Satoshi Kon {RIP} — Perfect Blue (1997) and Paprika (2006) — provide the viewer with vividly mad and delightful visions, respectively, ones that truly maximize the medium of animation to the ends of imaginative storytelling. Watch them while in an altered state of some kind! You will not regret it. ~ Perfect {Essay}
The Rebel (1951) – Albert Camus
Capitalist Realism (2009) – Mark Fisher
The Assassination of Julius Caesar (2003) – Michael Parenti
A People’s History of the United States (1980/2003) ~ Howard Zinn
  • After experiencing so many great stories, superb works of art across these mediums — diverse and wide-ranging in their purpose and audience — while also trying my hand at writing various stories myself, I have come to realize the truth … of just how damn hard it is to make good art. This relationship impressed upon me — of critically experiencing and passionately making — I am now more appreciative of art in general, more forgiving of flaws, and more amenable to ambitious styles, more cognizant of small slices of excellence in all measures. One of my biggest takeaways: before you shit on something, seriously try making something yourself!
Into The Wild (2007)
  • Complex and emotional ensemble cast films — full of social and geopolitical commentary were all the rage at the turn of the millennium — with Magnolia (1999) and Traffic (2000) as two paragons. I must highly recommend both to any and all cerebrally emotive filmgoers! {then, after watching each of these intense pictures, drop in with Kar-Wai Wong’s In The Mood For Love (2000) for a poetic, patient and altogether artfully bittersweet romance 🥰x😢 — alongside Audrey Tautou’s Amélie (2001) for an absolutely delightful experience 😊}
Nobody Knows (2004)
  • The Number 23 (2007) x Yes Man (2008) — Jim Carrey double feature from the late aughts, a psychological thriller and a feel good comedy. These films are more fun than you think they are and are more than worthy of your time; Carrey is still undefeated in my book.
  • {Do not watch Contagion!}
Contagion (2011)
  • Predestination (2014) is easily one of the most wild time travel stories I have ever seen. Watch it and be astounded by the end, guaranteed.
Predestination (2014)
  • Spotlight (2015) x Moonlight (2016) ~ a pair of Oscar-winning films that share ‘light’ in their title and practically nothing else narrative-wise. Two incredible stories that needed to be told in full; among the best films I watched this year.
Vice (2018)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
  • Uncut Gems x The Farewell x Portrait of a Lady on Fire x The Lighthouse ~ 2019’s cavalcade of high art films full of surprising performances, heartfelt narrative, electrifyingly subtle romance, and… giant mythological phalluses and hardcore seaman dialogue in grainy black and white? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

~

Top 5 films:

  • Dr. Strangelove (1964)
  • Stalker (1979)
  • Hard Boiled (1992)
  • Perfect Blue (1997)
  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

~

Top 5 series:

  • Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)
  • Vinland Saga (2019)
  • The Last Dance (2020)
  • Jane Fonda in Five Acts (2018)
  • Yu Yu Hakusho (1992–1995)

~

Top 5 games:

  • God of War (2018)
  • Metal Gear Solid (1998), 2 (2001), 3 (2004), 4 (2008)
  • Xenogears (1998)
  • Deus Ex (2000)
  • Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines (2004)

~

Top 5 books:

  • The Running Man (1982) — Stephen King
  • Capitalist Realism (2009) — Mark Fisher
  • The Metamorphosis (1915) — Franz Kafka
  • The Rebel (1951) — Albert Camus
  • A People’s History of the United States of America (1980/2003) — Howard Zinn

~

Top 5 albums:

~

Me to me in 2020

Needless to say, 2020 was quite a journey; wayward and challenging and tedious and heartbreaking. Here’s to hoping for better days in the year ahead!